Innovation & Capacity building interventions: briefing by Department of Trade and Industry & SABS Design Institute

This premium content has been made freely available

Trade and Industry

26 August 2015
Chairperson: Ms J Fubbs (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The presentation by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) on its Design Institute (DI) featured a display which had been created at Parliament, showcasing some of the products that had been developed at the DI. These included macadamian nut oil, new children’s toys, hand-painted furniture, gardening products, lactose-free products and shoes.

The DI had leveraged over 50 years of intellectual capacity in creating a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, taking products from the idea stage, through to the market. 58 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) had been developed through the DI in 2014/15, against a target of 25. 170 innovation industrialists had been developed among the youth, and 200 small businesses had been assisted.  660 innovation candidates from schools had been identified. The aim was to create a “Silicon Valley” for Africans, by Africans. The DI included mentoring and coaching, prototype testing, business model development, idea and technical assessments, and market research.

The discussion centred on whether the DI should be located within the SABS or under another department, like Science and Technology. Another query was whether there was enough synergy between the relevant departments and the DI to make use of its capacity and leverage. Members asked about progress on the development of a rechargeable cell-phone product. The Institute’s oversight capacity was also discussed.

The SABS responded that the DI needed to sit under the SABS, as it covered a range of industries, not just science and technology, and needed a broad umbrella to reach all departments. It pointed out that more funding was required to make a deeper impact. Regarding the cell-phone battery development, it was currently under the guardianship of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), which limited the involvement and input of the DI. 

Meeting report

SA Bureau of Standards (SABS): Design Institute (DI)

Members of the Committee were invited to view a display of Display Institute’s products, which ranged from those derived from macadamian nut oil, to new children’s toys, hand-painted furniture, gardening products, lactose free products and shoes -- all from South African entrepreneurs.

 

Mr Gavin Mageni, Head: SABS Design Institute, commented that 50 years of intellectual capacity was available, and had been leveraged into one space at the DI. An entrepreneur could go to one place and develop a product, all the way to the market -- it was a one-stop shop. Local beneficiation was the target, to avoid having to import what could be produced locally. Local industries were being created through innovation. Within 18 months, 70 new products had been developed at the Design Institute. 58 small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) had been developed through the DI against a target of 25 for 2014/15 (45 in 2013/2014). 170 innovation industrialists had been developed among the youth, and 200 small businesses had been assisted.  660 innovation candidates from schools had been identified. A total of 1 030 candidates had been assisted during the year.

Ms Boitumelo Mosako, Chief Fiancial Officer (CFO): SABS, said that the DI acted as an incubator of design, focusing on reducing youth unemployment. The SABS had enabled the SA economy through standards and related quality services. The reasons behind the DI included addressing the decline in local manufacturing, the lack of local beneficiation, high youth unemployment and a failing system of innovation. In 2013, the Industrial Design and Innovation Entrepreneurship centre had been launched. The aim was to create a “Silicon Valley” for Africans, by Africans. It included mentoring and coaching, prototype testing, business model development, idea and technical assessments, and market research. However, more funding would be required to grow and have an impact across the different provinces,.                                                                                             

Discussion

The Chairperson said the DI received no funding from the Department of Trade and Indsutry (DTI), and asked how the SABS planned ahead regarding funding and targets. Was there an internal audit committee, and what was the two to three year plan? She was concerned that development of the cell phone idea was taking too long, and that it might be overtaken if it did not come to the market in time. There needed to be greater synergy between departments, and better service delivery and economic growth. Often the public did not know when it was an SABS issue or when it was a National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) issue. The SABS needed to go on radio and advertise what they were doing.

Mr B Mkongi (ANC) said that the country was importing machines for caesarean operations, which should not be the case. He asked what the SABS’s recruitment process for innovative people was. He would follow up with the names of innovators he had been told about, and give them to the DI.

Mr D Macpherson (DA) said that renewable technology was a game changer in SA. He would like to see the DI roping in other departments. For example, the SABS should be working with Correctional Services and Education to alleviate the issues.

Mr J Esterhuizen (IFP) said many poor quality products and specifications were being advertised and produced in South Africa, despite the SABS’s input.

Mr N Koornhof (ANC) asked how far the young entrepreneur working on the cell phone battery recharging idea had progressed. Did the SABS know how many businesses were successful among those that had been helped? Should the DI not be located within the Department of Science and Technology?

Mr Mageni responded that the young entrepreneur developing the idea recharging cell phones was “owned” by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), so unfortunately the DI could not push the candidate. Transnet was housing its development of technology within the DI. For the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), the DI was managing the process from product to market. In essence, the process was results-driven, so people would not renew their involvement if the SABS were not achieving their targets. It was hard to put a yearly plan to it, though. There was no internal audit committee at the SABS. Traditional medicines sat under the DI, and the SABS took traditional practices and translated them into modern products. Innovation did not involve just science & technology, which was why it needed to be separate from any specific department.

Ms Musako said that the DI was housed within the SABS, and the board of the SABS had oversight over it. The sponsors also had oversight. Testing and certification services were offered by the SABS. In terms of protection of indigenous ideas, a state-owned Internet Protocol (IP) could not be sold to anyone else and could not leave the country.

Mr Theange Demsana, Chief Director: DTI, said that the DI was taking products to market, therefore it should sit under the SABS. The DTI was still in the process of working on the budget for the DI.

The meeting was adjourned.

Share this page: